Play Local · Uncategorized

21 Days Outdoors – Orange County’s Occoneechee Mountain

Conventional wisdom advises that habits are ingrained after 21 days of repetition. If that theory holds true, then the eat~play~shop local habit requires time and effort to develop. Each month I’ll share “21 Days” of some event, place or organization in the Triangle, enabling (and I mean that in the most positive sense possible) your inner Localista to come out and join us. This month it’s all about the great outdoors in the Triangle – parks, trails and green spaces under blue skies. So brush up on your trail etiquette, lace up those shoes, slather on the sunscreen and join us for some fresh air and fun times. 

My visit to Asheville earlier this year has left me yearning for more mountain adventures. But if time doesn’t allow for a four hour road trip, I’m glad to know Occoneechee Mountain State Park is much nearer by in Hillsborough. According to the state park website the mountain is the highest point in Orange County at 867 feet. It feels much higher when you’re looking down from the overlook view. Through the trees I could catch a glimpse of the Eno River and I think some of the town (if I had brought binoculars along I’d know for certain – next time).

In geology terms Occoneechee Mountain is a monadnock, meaning it’s a lone hill or mountain rising from the surrounding plain. That makes it a unique feature in the Triangle and apparently creates the perfect habitat for an isolated population of brown elfin butterflies in the Piedmont. The next nearest colony of that rare butterfly is over 100 miles away, in the mountains. 

With just over two miles of hilly trails strewn with rocks and peppered with exposed tree roots, the hike up the mountain is a work out. But there’s a payoff once you reach the summit, in that view of the river valley, and again when you reach the base at a scenic fishing pond in the meadow. Knowing those scenic views are just a few minutes and a short hike away means I expect to visit this local mountain often. 

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